Senate Approves Pipeline Safety Legislation

Legislation Will Be Sent To The President

December 14, 2011

Pipeline SafetyWASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate unanimously approved the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, which will strengthen pipeline safety oversight by the federal government and address long-standing safety issues.  

The legislation is based largely upon the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011, which was introduced by Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV and Surface Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank R. Lautenberg. The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate in October. 

“Paramount to the success of America’s pipeline system is an unwavering commitment to safety,” Rockefeller said.  “This legislation makes good on that promise by implementing long overdue improvements.  Pipelines transport the resources that power our lives and the economy.  Now the communities that neighbor them can rest a little easier knowing that Congress has implemented tougher safety rules to maintain the integrity of this 2.5 million mile system.”

“This is a huge step forward for the safety of America’s pipelines,” Lautenberg stated.  “We worked diligently with the House to reach agreement on this critical issue, and the bill passed by the Senate today includes provisions that will ensure the safe transport of energy resources to communities across our nation and prevent deadly accidents.  Passage of this bill is a major victory for the public safety of our neighborhoods, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”  

The United States has approximately 2.5 million miles of pipelines that transport oil, natural gas, and hazardous liquids.  These pipelines are an integral component of the U.S. economy and energy supply, and are considered a safer mode of transportation than other options for moving gas and liquids.  However, since 2006, there have been approximately 40 serious pipeline incidents each year that resulted in a fatality or injury.  

Passed by the House of Representatives on Monday, the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 is a bipartisan piece of legislation that represents a negotiated agreement between the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.  The legislation will now go to the President and is expected to be signed into law.

Many provisions from Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg’s original Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 were incorporated into the final bill, including those that:

  • Increase the cap on civil penalties for violators of pipeline regulations, and add civil penalties for obstructing investigations;

  • Expand excess flow valve requirements to include multi-family buildings and small commercial facilities;

  • Set more stringent standards on State “One-Call” systems by eliminating all exemptions given to local and state government agencies, and their contractors, on notifying “One-Call” centers before digging;

  • Require the installation of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on new transmission pipelines;

  • Require the Secretary to prescribe regulations that establish time limits on accident and leak notification by pipeline operators to local and state government officials and emergency responders;

  • Require the Secretary to evaluate whether integrity management system requirements should be expanded beyond currently defined high consequence areas and establish regulations as appropriate;

  • Increase public availability of pipeline information, inspections, and standards by requiring that this information be made available on PHMSA’s public website;

  • Allow PHMSA to recover costs for oversight of large pipeline design and construction projects; and

  • Require gas transmission pipeline operators to verify records and confirm maximum allowable operating pressure.